Within hours of his firm handshake and pat on finance minister Arun Jaitley’s hand immediately after his speech in Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed it as a “pro-village, pro-poor, pro-farmer” budget.The themes– poor, farmers and women–which had been gaining accent in Modi’s speeches in recent months, resounded in the budget, blunting the blitzkrieg of the Congress led by its vice-president Rahul Gandhi calling the NDA a “suit-boot ki sarkar”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Making a strategic turn in its priorities from industry to the under-privileged, the political message was lucid. The BJP, which faced humiliating defeats in the Bihar and Delhi, underlined the budget’s emphasis on social sector, farmers, rural India and poor. However, the Opposition rejected this, dubbing it as a political budget which has nothing to give impetus to three engines of growth– agriculture, private investment and exports.The shift in the government’s economic script was forseeable. Modi has held four farmers rallies across the country over the past month even as he has been underlining the need to focus on “antyodaya”, the last man in the queue.In his third budget, Jaitley described the country’s 120 million farmers as the “backbone of the country’s food security” and promised to double their income in five years. He also said government would increase spending on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA), a scheme brought by the UPA regime offering 100 days of employment to villagers. He announced providing BPL families with LPG connections with subsidy, an echo of the Prime Minister’s concern about women whose eyes watered while cooking on chullahs. Announcing government’s commitment towards rural electrification, he assured 100 per cent village electrification by May, 2018.Modi has held four farmers rallies across the country over the past month even as he has been underlining the need to focus on “antyodaya”, the last man in the queue.Besides fiscal consolidation, the focus of the budget has been on infrastructure, which has even been acknowledged by the Opposition. The total outlay on the infrastructure is Rs2, 21,246 crore. For building or renting houses, there are tax benefits and for the first time home buyer the deduction for interest paid on home loan has been raised by Rs50,000 a year.Keeping in mind the icons the BJP has been citing, Jaitley mentioned Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s anniversary celebration, allocation for Deendayal Jyoti Gram Jyoti Yojna and quoted Swami Vivekananda that a country can only progress if “its population iswell-educated, well-fed and well cared for”.BJP president Amit Shah described many measures in the budget as historic claiming it was the first budget since independence focusing on villages, farmers and poor. The BJP has been trying to shed the pro-corporate tag that the government has been given by the Opposition. After the elections to five states this year, the party faces the crucial Uttar Pradesh election in March next year.Former finance minister P Chidambaram refuted the government’s claim that the budget was pro-farmer. “The crucial signal in agriculture sector is the price. Last year, I think the farmers were cheated. In many cases there was a paltry increase in MSP, in some cases there was Zero increase in MSP. I would have expected that the price signal is given clearly to the farmers. Everything else can be said – these are long gestation programmes like irrigation and soil testing etc. Immediately it is the prices signal that enthuse the farmers. One of the reasons for acute distress in rural India is that the farmers are not getting fair and remunerative prices for their produce,” he said.CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the budget will “create greater economic inequalities, reduced purchasing power, was not growth oriented and appeased international capital more than meeting people’s requirements.”

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Budget 2016: Narendra Modi’s post-Bihar imprint runs through budget